Scotland's top soldier quits army in protest

GENERAL Andrew Mackay, one of the British Army's most senior commanding officers, has dramatically resigned his post over "dissatisfaction" with the government's handling of the Armed Forces.

The head of the army in Scotland, northern England and Northern Ireland, Gen Mackay is said to have become increasing angry at the perceived lack of resources and commitment to the war in Afghanistan.

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He announced his resignation from the army yesterday just three months into his new three-year posting.

While he would not be drawn officially on the reason, The Scotsman has learned that he is "dissatisfied" with government plans for the army and the handling of the war in Afghanistan.

Last night, a friend of the general said: "He does not rate Gordon Brown or believe that he understands the needs of Afghanistan. He liked Blair, he believed Blair got it, but is angry at what he sees is a lack of support to the army."

It was unclear last night what other factors had contributed to the general's decision. However, it is understood that it may also be connected with internal restructuring.

Last night, Nick Haston, a former major and deputy chief of staff for 52 Brigade, who served with Gen Mackay in Afghanistan, said: "There is a general malaise in the army at the moment over resources and the Afghanistan campaign.

"I would suggest there are other factors, but that (the "malaise"] would be a contributing factor. The fact that he has chosen to resign in so short a period into a three-year tenure post means that he is dissatisfied with something. He would not have done that without being dissatisfied.

"In my opinion – and part of the reason that I left – is that there is a general malaise in the army where good people are going because of current policy, resource issues and political ignorance over the situation in Afghanistan. His reasons will be related in some way to that. It will not be the whole reason."

As head of Taskforce Helmand, the commander of all British forces in Afghanistan in late 2006 and 2007, Gen Mackay pioneered a new approach to combating the Taleban.

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Upon his return, he denounced the British government's strategy in Afghanistan as a "constant muddling through" and described how they were "making it up as we go along".

While he was in Afghanistan, Gen Mackay sent a memo to London that warned of a "grave crisis" looming on the eve of the battle for Musa Qala, concerning equipment that was "tired, limited and failing regularly".

According to brigade staff, only a fifth of the heavy machine guns needed were available, and only half of the required WMIK Land Rovers had been supplied.

British soldiers only had half the chance of an American soldier to be equipped with night-vision goggles. Many of the ageing Scimitar tanks were not working, and those that were could not go into reverse gear.

Other leading military figures have spoken out recently over the government's handling of the war, as the British death toll continues to rise. On Monday, the death of Michael Lockett, 29, of Monifeith, in Angus, took the total to 217 since the start of operations in 2001, compared with 137 by the end of 2008.

The previous head of the army, General Sir Richard Dannatt, issued the Ministry of Defence with a shopping list of demands over the summer, including more troops and helicopters. And Sir Jock Stirrup, Chief of the Defence Staff, said more helicopters would save lives, contradicting the Prime Minister.

Former defence secretary John Hutton, who quit his post in June, has said Britain's military presence needs "more logistical support"

and stated the mood among troops on the ground was "unequivocal" on the need for more manpower and protection from roadside bombs.

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Earlier this month, Falkirk MP Eric Joyce, an aide to armed forces minister Bob Ainsworth, quit his post in protest at the government's policy on Afghanistan, saying it needed to get a "grip" on defence.

Clive Fairweather, a former SAS deputy commander and counter-terrorist expert, said of Gen Mackay: "As his former commanding officer, I'm shocked. He is a first-class soldier and very approachable."

A spokeswoman for the army said last night: "We can confirm that General Mackay has tendered his resignation."

In a statement, Gen Mackay said: "I have resigned and I don't wish to make any further comment."


At 52, General Andrew Mackay was one of the army's oldest operational commanders, in charge of more than 7,000 troops from 52 Infantry Brigade in Afghanistan.

Famously commanding from a foxhole during 2007's decisive battle for Musa Qala, Mackay was so close to the front line that bodyguards had to open fire to protect him.

He was initially rejected by army recruiting officers, and joined the Royal Hong Kong Police, rising to the rank of inspector before joining the army.

He gained a reputation as someone unafraid to challenge the status quo and dictate orders back up the chain of command.